Thursday, January 19, 2006
"No, What I Meant Was, First You Take Vanilla Extract and Six Eggs..."
All joking aside, however, Nagin is, in his own blundering way, making a worthwhile point. While he was certainly dumb to say that God wanted New Orleans to remain a majority-black city, the issue of how the city is rebuilt--and whether, in the process, it gets intentionally whitened--is a serious one. And Nagin, and other black New Orlineans, aren't being paranoid when they worry that some white people in the city are secretly, and not so secretly, hoping that a rebuilt New Orleans is decidedly more vanilla, or, to use Nagin's terminology, white milk-like.
A bunch of conservative blogs had a field day with Nagin's statement. Which isn't surprising, considering that Nagin's impassioned televised cries for help during Katrina were a source of embarrassment for the Bushies and "Brownie." And if Pat Robertson is a gold-plated @$$hole for saying that God struck down Ariel Sharon for giving Gaza to the Arabs, then it's only fair that nobody else have unauthorized dibs on the Almighty in order to make their point.
What did get lost here was the point itself. Too many times, when a poor neighborhood is wrecked, it gets rebuilt as a playground for Yuppies. This brings in needed tourist bucks, but buries a piece of American history, where the only thing left of a vital culture is some animatronic statue of Louie Armstrong.
Of course, the most important thing is that the city be rebuilt in a way that not only allows its black residents to return there, if they so choose, but also allows them to return to neighborhoods that are not squalid and dysfunctional and impoverished in the way they were before Katrina. I don't know if Nagin has any sort of gastronomic analogies to make that point, but I'd love to hear them.
Then again, maybe I'm totally wrong and Nagin wants New Orleans to be run by Parliament-Funkadelic. What do I know.
P.S. Harry Shearer huffs and puffs on Huffington Post, with a slew of lively comments following.